Northern Italy’s two grandest cities share many qualities: both are artistically bountiful, architecturally grandiose and have played vital roles in the formation of modern Italy. The leading city of Piedmont, Turin was formerly capital of Savoy and later of the kingdom of Sardinia. Developed on a grand scale in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the historic centre is laid out on a regular plan with broad avenues and spacious piazze.
While rightly renowned as the world capital of fashion (as well as opera), and as a commercial and financial powerhouse, Milan’s fascinatingly rich historical character is often overlooked. Indeed, it has one of the proudest and most illustrious histories of all Italian cities, not least its influential role in the Risorgimento.
For over 200 years, both cities have also been considerable players on the Italian opera scene, with the Teatro Regio in Turin tracing its history back nearly three centuries, and the Teatro alla Scala arguably the world’s most famous opera house.
Our programme ties together contrasting strands in operatic history. Donizetti was sometimes fond of bragging about the speed at which he composed his operas, and Don Pasquale was no exception. This comic masterpiece sparkles with an energy that makes it easy to forget that Don Pasquale is very much a late work, written when the composer had nearly 70 operas under his belt. Someone who wrote four operas a year was never likely to be taken seriously by Wagnerians, whose master usually took at least four years over an opera, but in fact Wagner’s fondness for the Italian world of bel canto is reflected at least in part in his Tannhäuser, whose plot centres on a singing competition at the Wartburg.
Italo Montemezzi’s rarely heard L’amore dei Tre Re, premiered indeed at La Scala in 1913, enjoys a reputation among cognoscenti as one of the strongest examples of Italian Symbolism. But it also looks across the Alps: Montemezzi’s erotic thriller – telling the quintessentially medieval and morbid story of a princess who is murdered by her blind father-in-law and whose poison-laced lips seal her lover’s fate – comes wrapped in details undoubtedly recalling Wagner.
Turin. Leave from Milan Linate airport following the arrival of the flight from London Heathrow (British Airways, currently arriving at 1.25pm) (flights are not included – see ‘Practicalities’). Drive to Turin. An introductory walk through the beautiful Piazza S. Carlo, with arcades and 18th-century churches. First of two nights in Turin.
Turin. In the morning, visit the Royal Palace, built 1660, with wonderful interiors from the 17th–19th centuries, which also houses the Galleria Sabauda, an excellent picture collection. The afternoon is free. There is an evening performance at the Teatro Regio of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Francesco Ivan Ciampa (conductor), Ugo Gregoretti (director). Final night in Turin.
Turin, Milan. Visit the Palazzo Madama. Built in 1660, it now houses the City Art Museum and has fine interiors from the 17th to 19th centuries. Travel by 1st class rail to Milan. There is an evening performance at La Scala of Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei Tre Re, Carlo Rizzi (conductor), Àlex Ollé (stage director); cast includes Ferluccio Furlanetto (Archibaldo), Roberto Frontali (Manfredo), Giorgio Berrugi (Avito), Federica Lombardi (Fiora), Giorgio Misseri (Flaminio). First of two nights in Milan.
Milan. A morning lecture is followed by a visit to The Brera, one of Italy’s finest art galleries, where most of the greatest Italian artists are represented. In the afternoon there is an optional visit to the Renaissance church of Santa Maria delle Grazie; the refectory houses Leonardo’s The Last Supper. There is an evening performance at La Scala of Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Ádám Fischer (conductor), Carlus Padrissa (stage director); cast includes Albert Dohmen (Hermann, Landgraf von Thüringen), Peter Seiffert (Tannhäuser), Markus Werba (Wolfram von Eschenbach). Final night in Milan.
Milan. In the morning there is a visit to the La Scala museum, containing portraits of Verdi, Puccini and others, plus a wealth of historically significant instruments. Drive to Milan Linate airport in time for the flight to London Heathrow (British Airways, currently departing at 3.45pm).
Price, per person.
Two sharing: £2,910. Single occupancy: £3,200.
tickets to three performances; travel by private coach; rail travel (first class) from Turin to Milan; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts, one lunch and three dinners with wine, water and coffee; all admissions to museums, galleries etc. visited with the group; all tips for restaurant staff and drivers; all taxes; the services of the lecturers.
Flights are not included in the cost of the tour as group rates were prohibitive at the time of going to print. We can book flights on your behalf, quoting the fare at the time of booking, or you can make the booking yourself. Suggested flight details are provided with your Confirmation of Booking, but please contact us if you require details sooner.
Top category tickets for three performances are included, costing c. £760. At the time of going to print, we are unable to confirm whether these will be in stalls or boxes. Tickets for the opera performance in Turin are confirmed in September 2019.
Grand Hotel Sitea, Turin: a 4-star hotel, comfortable, elegantly furnished and very central. Rosa Grand Hotel, Milan: a smart 4-star hotel excellently located directly behind the Duomo. Single rooms are doubles for sole use throughout.
There is a fair amount of walking as traffic is restricted in both city centres. Participants need to be averagely fit and able to manage everyday walking and stairclimbing without any difficulty. Average distance by coach per day: 4 miles
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting.